Courtesy of HBO

Season 2 of HBO's original series Treme opened 14 months into the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, as New Orleans still stumbles to find its footing. The specter of the enormous loss and devastation of one of this country's major disasters takes its place front and center, a lead character in this ensemble cast.

This week we are reintroduced to the well-drawn, flawed and messy characters who are trying to find a new normal. There's Antoine Baptiste (Wendell Pierce), the musician who can't quite pull it together and who is busy helping his significant other wade through insurance red tape and contemplating forming a new band.

In Season 1, Baptiste's ex, LaDonna Baptiste-Williams (Khandi Alexander), commuted between Baton Rouge, where her husband and her two sons lived, to New Orleans to take care of her aging mother, keep the family-owned bar afloat and solve the mystery of what happened to her missing brother.

LaDonna's mother has now moved to Baton Rouge to be with their family. As her husband pressures her to sell the New Orleans house and bar to come back to live with them, she finally tells her truth: She just can't let go of home.

A surprising new voice emerges in Sophia, the daughter of Creighton Burnette (John Goodman), who committed suicide in Season 1. As she takes over his blog about the state of post-Katrina New Orleans, it is eerily as if she's channeling his anger and pain. Sophia's mom, Toni (new Oscar winner Melissa Leo), tries to bury her grief by taking on the cause of the displaced musicians in the city.

Mardi Gras Chief Albert Lambreaux (Clarke Peters) finds himself homeless after the owner of the bar he's been squatting in since the storm returns. He also finds that the insurance money he gets won't even begin to cover the costs of rebuilding his life and home.


His son, a jazz musician and New York expat, feels the draw of the home, too, when he has to defend his passion for the music and life of the Crescent City to his uptown friends. And look for another character who escaped to New York at the end of Season 1, Chef Janette, to head back home after spending time working in the kitchen of a top restaurant headed by a chef with no heart or soul.

And we're introduced to a new character, the name-dropping Nelson, who has arrived from Dallas to build his fortune on the back of the broken city. While we don't quite know what he's up to, you get the feeling it can't be good for black New Orleans when the white opportunist says, "Never let a disaster go to waste."

In other news: Etta James Explains Nasty Obama Comments.

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is a journalist who writes about health, health policy and food justice. She is a Food and Society Policy Fellow.